Two years ago I was admitted to a Top-50 US MS in Computer Science Program with a Full Tuition Scholarship, a Prestigious Dean’s Award and an assistant-ship with a stipend that easily could cover my living expenses. This program received over 900 applications for fewer than 20 spots, so the scholarship was a pretty big deal.
I was in my final semester of computer engineering. Just like any other CS student applying for an MS in US from India, I was told by admissions consultants, seniors and well-meaning relatives that I should apply to the MS in CS program over any other specialization because they were “more prestigious”, perceived to be harder to get into and that I “had the right profile”. The perception was that if you like programming you go for CS, if you don’t you go for MIS and become an analyst. I loved programming and I did not want to become an analyst, I wanted a development role in a big company. That was essentially the goal – Landing a good job in a good company with interesting work going on and lead a secure, stable, “happy” life. So I went ahead and applied.
And then something awesome happened. I got the Dream Job I was hoping to land post MS. It was a Development job in a product development organization in a Tech Giant. The work culture seemed to be fantastic. I would finally get the chance to do the kind of work I loved and be in an incredible environment that would bring out the best in me.
And then the admits came out. I hated research, I was not interested in learning more “theory” stuff in Computer Science and I only was considering an MS to land a job, not out of any passion for the subject that would help me survive CS grad school. I loved computer science but I believed I could learn things on my own through ample resources including the internet and books. I took tough electives in advanced areas of CS in my final 2 years and I felt ready to go out and work on real-world problems in the industry. That’s when I realized that If I went for the MS, I would just be doing it for the wrong reasons and giving into peer pressure. My only goal was to land that dream job – What sense did it make to give that up once I had already achieved it?
So I declined the scholarship offer and the chance to pursue an MS in US for FREE in a word-class institution. Family members were unhappy with my choice. I was accused of being ungrateful for giving up such an opportunity, arrogant (because they believed I thought I was too good for the program – Not the case, it just wasn’t right for me based on MY interests and I don’t look down on any program for that matter.) and I heard everything from “but Sharma-ji Ki Beti went and she did just fine” to “You must have higher education”. Hardly anyone understood my decision. and that was completely alright because I knew I would be happier at the end of the day.